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the long way around

The living room is a forest of mic stands and cables. A cup of coffee, a large glass of water and a shallow shot of whiskey sit on the tiny white table. I alternate between them, making sure the guitar is in tune, trying to understand if the chair will creak when I lean my head back on the second chorus.  There is a hush in the room. I can hear my own heartbeat. The lyrics are printed out on a fresh piece of paper, large and thick so I can read them easily even though I sing with my eyes closed and will surely forget a handful of words no matter what I do.

The guitar sounds dry, perfect - even honest. I can play a simple D chord with a long strum, or the side of my thumb and it sounds so different. I record a few takes, barefoot in the bright room. I am going too fast in some parts, and my fingers are already sore from the chord changes.

And then all at once, I am thinking of a show I played in an old factory in Brooklyn, way back when I had just started writing songs almost twenty y…

I am a fisherman


He has pale blue eyes. Our feet are almost touching on the wet floor of the little bus that lurches alongside the river. I sit facing him, looking out the back window so crusted with mud you cannot see through it. He tilts his head back, slugs from the tall can, and lets is dangle form his hands. It is dead cold out. I can smell the cheap beer on him, or maybe it is from other cans rolling around empty below the seats. He stares hard, at nothing.

The Leica is tucked inside my jacket. I don't see a way to take a picture. I am too close, the ride is too long. His face is such a perfect map of exhaustion and frustration, the beer somehow bottomless as he slurps from it. No, this is not a picture to take. It is one to let pass by. 

My father is a fisherman, as his father was. He can spend a day in a tiny boat with nothing but the wind and water around him. He catches plenty, but coming back empty-handed is nothing to be sad about. It is the process that matters, the getting ready, the going, the being there, the eventual return. It is a neat circle, perfect actually. I tried to fish with him as a boy, bored and complaining an hour into any session. Cold, hot, needing to pee, hungry, I made him nuts. I accepted the fact that I was not a fisherman, that baiting a hook showed no glory for me. 

Now, I think of that young man as one I threw back into the water. It was not a lost shot, but one I traded for a better one. 




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